DEVIZES III 24 - 47 ALFRED'S NOMADS
Nomads end great season with great win over Devizes!
So… here we are – the last fixture of the season! An away match to Devizes and then that’s that! Various pundits opined that our second place in the table was secure… but rumours were rife that Devizes were looking to scalp the Nomads, so there was no room for complacency. Another sunny day greeted us as we prepared to travel for this local derby… only to have late news that the pitch at Devizes was flooded by a burst water main and that the game would have to be played at Marlborough! Slight problem – the new posts on the Nomads’ pitch had only gone in the day before and the concrete wasn’t set!!! Much activity followed and the area around the base of the posts was hurriedly filled in and raked over… and players of both sides started drifting back to the Common. Actually, as the Devizes 2nd XV game had been called off, players of three sides turned out at Marlborough – so it looked like it was going to be the Nomads vs. a combined Devizes II and III squad as thirty players warmed up in Devizes’ black and white strip! Problem? No problem!
The numerical advantage wasn’t the only problem as, right from the start, it was clear that Devizes meant business. Nomads’ captain sion thompson had won the toss and elected to receive the kick-off; although the kick was well taken, the pressure was applied and so we kicked to touch. From the resulting Devizes line-out, they took the ball cleanly and set up a pretty ferocious driving maul and pushed us back a good 20 metres before peeling off the back to score a try! Unconverted, it still meant that we were 0-5 down after just two minutes! Getting right back into it, we applied pressure ourselves, getting the ball out wide to winger Tomasi RASOKI and looking to exploit around the fringes. Good recycling at the breakdown saw the ball coming all the way back across the field to George Heard on the other wing; he came so close to crossing the whitewash some of the spectators had even started celebrating! Again the ball was recycled well and was spun out by centre Nathan Morgan to full-back Curtis DAWKINS who was running one of his now trademarked fantastic lines. He took the ball, straightened up and committed his opposite number to the tackle; his timing was absolutely perfect as he simply popped the ball to hooker Adam Whatley running in support – and Whatley crashed across the line for a great try! Scrum-half Louis Haisman added the extras and, after eight minutes, we led 7-5.
Ten minutes of back-and-forth rugby followed. Although the scrum was being pushed back by a much stronger Devizes pack, Haisman and fly-half Myles Richards were managing to keep us on the front foot as much as possible, with centres Morgan and James Gibson also working well together; bringing in the back line of Rasoki, Heard and Dawkins to good effect – Heard having a particularly strong afternoon. In addition, Thompson at No8 and flankers Reece BRYANT and Jake HORWOOD were getting in on the action – both in attack and defence; Horwood’s tackling was superb, often making three tackles one after the other in the space of just a couple of metres! However, the next score was for Devizes as they again used their weight to drive the Nomads back. Converted, this try brought the score to 7-12 to Devizes. Not lacking in team spirit, the Nomads refused to let their heads go down and, from the kick off, went right back at it. The re-start was caught cleanly and run back; Devizes were penalised for not releasing. The penalty was taken quickly by Morgan who ran a good 30 metres into the opposition, passing the ball in contact to Heard who flashed over to score a well-deserved try! Haisman converted to bring the score to 14-12 for the Nomads after twenty minutes.
As if we needed reminding, Devizes came back as strong as ever, using their weight advantage to pile the pressure on our scrum. Props Ben Beanland and Aaron Mains held up well, the latter consistently harrying the opposition and fighting for the ball in good style. The second-row pairing of James ILES and Harry Kearly was sound, with both players digging deep at scrum time; Kearly jumping in the line to good effect as well. With Whatley at hooker, this front five worked really hard to give Haisman decent ball. Better in the loose than at the set piece, their collective effort was a key part of this game. Giving away something like 10kg per man against the Devizes forwards, it was an unequal struggle at times and, from another driving maul, Devizes scored again on thirty minutes to peg us back to 14-19.
But these Nomads have become the kind of team that never gives up and always seizes the opportunity, no matter how slim the odds. Five minutes later, after some more heavyweight work by the Devizes forwards, their centre chipped the ball over for the chase. Bouncing awkwardly, it was nonetheless taken well by the in-form Horwood who stepped on the gas and ran it straight back, firing a neat pass to Rasoki who streaked 55 metres up the pitch to score! Haisman’s boot (as accurate as ever) restored our two-point advantage; 21-19 to the Nomads with a few minutes on the clock before half-time. Dawkins – who has had an absolutely marvellous season – had taken a blow to the ribs and so was replaced by Viliame RATUELI, an equally safe pair of hands and swift feet!
Right away, we looked to increase the pressure on the Devizes squad that looked like they were tiring – extraordinary given they had a full squad and fifteen on the bench! With Whatley harassing in very fine style at the breakdown, we were rewarded with a turnover; clean ball for Haisman who read the situation extremely well, placing a little chip over the top for Heard to chase. And chase it he did! Heard’s score took us to 26-19 and the half was completed with a fine penalty kick from Morgan, whose three points established a ten-point lead at half-time; as the oranges appeared, it was 29-19 to the Nomads!
Playing down the slope in the second half is always a good sign! It would be ten minutes before the first score of the second period, however, with a penalty kick by Haisman taking us to 32-19. Matt Hamblin replaced Kearly at second-row and was into the thick of it straight away as Devizes mounted a surge with their forwards, earning a try just two minutes later. 32-24 meant that we weren’t completely out of danger, but it was time to turn the screw. Another penalty kick from Morgan brought the score to 35-24 and took his season tally of points for the Nomads to 157… an outstanding personal achievement, I think all would agree!
George HALL replaced Bryant at flanker and off we went again. Nomads veteran Bryant represents the very best of the fantastic Pewsey Vale players who have contributed so much to this combined XV this season… we’re looking forward to seeing him and the other Pewsey men next autumn! Hall has made the transition from Colts to adult rugby with style this season and he got stuck in from the off with some great tackling, fantastic positioning over the ball, real strength and wonderful spatial awareness – all bodes well for next season! Devizes started a flurry of substitutions and the next few minutes were incoherent. Thompson kept everyone focussed, however, and it was from a neat No8 pick-up that the ball went quickly and accurately to Richards, to Morgan and then to Rasoki who skinned about three defenders and touched down in the corner; his second try of the afternoon brought the score to 40-24 and his own season’s tally to 70 points from 14 individual tries! Another outstanding achievement! Although the angle defeated Haisman, his own outstanding achievement is noteworthy – a personal haul of 127 points in the season from ten tries, 37 successful conversions and a penalty kick!
With five minutes to go, Devizes had lost their cool and soon lost a player to a yellow card. Iles was replaced by Adam Withers at second-row and we kept up the pressure. Horwood and Hall were now really exploiting weakness around the edges of the Devizes scrum and their work resulted in a penalty for the Nomads; taken quickly, Haisman made the first few yards before sliding the ball out to Heard who came close again. Another penalty for the Nomads saw the ball going back to the middle of the pitch where Thompson – who had delivered a fine captain’s performance – smashed through a demoralised Devizes defence for a great try! To round off the season he also took the conversion, adding the two points and sealing a great victory 47-24.
So, that was that. The Nomads played and beat two Devizes teams simultaneously and by a considerable margin! The post-match and end-of-season festivities would continue into the night (details of which can be read elsewhere), but it’s worth mentioning George Heard’s well-deserved man-of-the-match accolade. Also worth stating that, from my perspective, this match was a typical Nomads fixture for many reasons, such as: a good squad with a great bench of substitutes; fantastic team spirit; loyal supporters (to whom I express my deep gratitude!); a ‘switching on’ moment, about twenty minutes into the match with the score far from certain, when everyone remembers why they’re here; some superb running rugby; some fantastic tackling and defensive play; a try bonus point win; and big smiles all-round!!! Second place in the table secured; promotion to the 2nd Division will be confirmed after a South West RFU meeting in early May.
What a season! Well done, you Nomads!